Autumn Caramel Apples

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Photography by Allyson Regan

What better way to indulge your sweet tooth than with a sweet treat that also involves some fruit.  I absolutely love caramel apples, especially when they are coated in pecans and chocolate.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Also, these are a great homemade treat for Halloween! This is the easiest caramel apple recipe ever!  All you will need is 2 bags of those Brach’s caramels, the ones that come individually wrapped, and a bit of heavy cream.  Bring a medium pot of water to a simmer and melt the caramels and cream in a glass bowl.  It might take a while, but trust me, it’s so worth it!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Now the caramel will set a bit quickly, so you’ll want to roll it in nuts soon after dipping.  Let it set completely before drizzling on chocolate though, otherwise you’ll have a mess on your hands.  I used the same melting chocolate that I used for these cake pops.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

You can leave them plain too, customize them to whatever you and your family likes!  You can even make some “mummified” versions like the one below!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

How scary does that look???  Either way, make sure to eat them semi-soon after making them.  Also, use pretty sturdy sticks so that you don’t have to worry about them breaking or falling off.  If you need another, more adult, way to celebrate Halloween today, check out this spooky cocktail!  Enjoy!

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Halloween Cake Pops

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Photography by Allyson Regan

You guys!  Look how cute these cake pops are!  They are the perfect Halloween snack because they are bite size, so you can eat more and not feel guilty, and they are super easy!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Okay, that’s enough exclamation points for today.  I’m sure you can find a recipe for cake pops somewhere online, but it’s so simple that you almost don’t need one.  For the cake pops themselves, you’ll need one 9X13 pan of cake.  I used a yellow cake recipe but you can use any box mix that you like.  Once it’s cooled, crumble it into a mixing bowl and add about 1 1/2 cups of your favorite frosting!  Sorry, more exclamation points.  You want the consistency to be pliable, just remember that you are going to freeze these before you decorate so they will firm up.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Once they are frozen, they are ready to decorate which is the best part.  Melt candy melts in the microwave but be sure to follow the directions, especially for the white chocolate ones as they can easily burn.  I used the Ghirardelli candy melts and they are so easy and actually taste good!  Once the candy is melted, you want to work pretty fast.  Dip the cake pops to coat and let the excess candy fall.  Directly after dipping, you want to add sprinkles so that they stick.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

For these adorable mummies, coat all of the pops and attach these cute little candy eyes.  Let set, and then put the remaining white chocolate in a piping bag.  Cut a small tip off the bag, and drizzle onto the cake pops, taking cake to avoid the eyes.  Let set and then watch them disappear like magic.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

These cute sticks can be found here and they are listed as caramel apple sticks.  I personally wouldn’t use them because they aren’t very sturdy and they are quite short.  These cake pops are so cute and they are the perfect make-ahead treat for your tricksters!

 

Chicken Tikka Masala

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I can’t even remember the first time I made this dish.  In fact, I think I’ve only eaten it in a restaurant once.  Sometimes trying a dish from an unfamiliar cuisine can be intimidating, but this dish is so simple!  Plus, it’s so much fun to try a new dish, even if you’ve never eaten the dish before.

I’ve seriously made this recipe more times than I can count in the last month, gradually tweaking it until I love it!  It’s so good! My husband isn’t the biggest fan, so I’ve been making this whole recipe at the beginning of the week and then eating throughout the week for an easy lunch.  The flavors get even better towards the end of the week.  If you do this, make sure to keep the rice separate so that it doesn’t get mushy.  Also, it gives me an excuse to have naan in the house which is so good lightly toasted and with a bit of butter!  I’m drooling over here.

The key to success with this dish is to marinate the chicken the day before.  The yogurt helps to tenderize this chicken and all the spices have time to get cozy.  This dish itself is really cozy too, and it’s the perfect thing for a chilly day like today.

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Chicken Tikka Masala

1.5 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 cup whole milk greek yogurt

1 Tbsp granulated garlic

2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp turmeric

2 tsp garam masala

2 tsp coriander

2 tsp cumin

1 Tbsp kosher salt

1 tsp ground cardamom

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 small yellow onion, julienned

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/2 Tbsp red pepper flakes

1-28 oz can diced tomatoes

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup milk

cilantro

Begin by cutting the chicken into 1 inch cubes.  In a small bowl, combine all of the spices.  Place half of the spices into a large bowl along with the yogurt and the chicken pieces.  Toss to coat and marinate for at least 6 hours or up to 24.

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a medium saucepan.  Add the onions and cook until soft and slightly caramelized.  Add the chicken with all of the marinade.  Once the chicken and yogurt start to cook, add in the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, milk, cream, and pepper flakes.  Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Keep an eye on it, and if you see it getting too thick, you can add some stock to thin it a bit.  The sauce should be pinkish-orange and about the consistency of a thin tomato sauce.  My recipe is a little less red than other recipes, but I love the flavor of the increased turmeric spices that I’m okay with the slightly different color.

I love serving this dish with basmati rice, a bit of chopped cilantro or green onions, and some warm naan bread.  You can find naan in most groceries deli sections.  They even make mini ones now!  They are seriously so cute, I’m dying.

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I recently made this for our bookclub, more about that coming soon!  Since my sister is a vegetarian, we just substituted the chicken with cauliflower.  The preparation is a bit different since you don’t need to marinate the cauliflower.  Begin the cooking process the same way as the recipe above, but just leave out the yogurt and add all the spices to the sauce.  Essentially you will just be making the sauce and simmering the cauliflower in it to cook it through.  You can make it a fully veggie dish too, just use cauliflower rice instead of basmati.

Yum!

Fall Cheese Board

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Cheese boards are one of my favorite things to break out when I’m entertaining.  Especially if your guests are arriving around dinner time and you still have some finishing touches to put on the meal.  Plus, they are super easy to put together and chances are that you already have most of this stuff in your kitchen!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

The tricky thing is trying to figure out just how much ‘stuff’ you need for your board.  This depends on how many people, how long they will be snacking, and if you have plates for them to load up or if they are just picking off the board itself.  For the cheese board I created for this post, it would easily serve 4 people for an hour or so.  But it could also easily serve my sister and I, on a girls night, when we are splitting a bottle of wine and not planning on eating a real meal.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

As a general rule, I like to stick to the rule of threes; three cheeses, three meats, three cracker-type things, and three extras.  You don’t have to to this by any means, but I think it helps to provide a good mix of options while not crowding the board.  For the cheeses, stick to crowd favorites and maybe have one wild card that people might have never had before.  For this board, I used sharp cheddar, fresh mozzarella marinated in pesto, and pecorino.  If you do choose a soft cheese, like goat cheese, you might want to add a preserve or jam to your board to complement it.  Semi-soft cheese do well when they are marinated, and hard cheeses I normally leave alone.  If you’re trying to locate good cheese in the GR area, try Martha’s Vineyard, they have a great selection of artisanal cheese (and meats! and wines!) and you can get just the amount that you need.  As far as for selecting the meats, I like to do one spicy (like a sharp pepperoni or spicy salami), one classic (I’m a sucker for prosciutto and I don’t think I’ve ever made a cheese board without it!), and one crowd favorite (for me this is usually a mild salami).  The crackers are where you can stay pretty basic or get really creative!  I found these breadsticks just at Meijer, and I think they add a nice height to the board that you normally don’t see.  I also used pita crackers, and regular ritz crackers.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

The extras are the fun part!  I love using dried fruits and nuts, but I also put fresh champagne grapes on here.  I normally don’t see these at the market, but I’m glad I picked them up!  They taste sweeter than regular grapes, and they are so tiny and adorable!  You can add all sorts of extras to you cheese board, like fresh berries, preserves, figs, olives, fresh fruit, dips, spread, and so much more! If you’re looking for a great cheese board and more inspiration, head over here to check out an amazing one!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

All that’s left now is to enjoy!  Also, if you’re looking for an easy way to stock up on wine before your get-together, check out Bright Cellars!  They’re doing a great deal right now where if you follow this link, you’ll get a $50 credit on your first order!

Chili Honey Glazed Shrimp

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Sometimes you just need a simple recipe to help spice up your weekday dinner meals.  This recipe is just that!  And it uses ingredients that you probably have in your pantry and freezer!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

I like to keep shrimp in my freezer for those days when I just don’t have time to run to the store or when I want to spend less time cooking and more time with my handsome husband.  For this post, I featured the shrimp in two forms, a tostada and tacos.  Both are super simple and are a great way to get some practice at cooking shrimp.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Chili Honey Glazed Shrimp

1 pound of shrimp, deveined

2 Tbsp butter, unsalted

1/2 cup honey

1 1/2 Tbsp red pepper flakes

1/4 cup soy sauce

salt and pepper

Begin with thawed shrimp.  Heat the butter over medium high heat.  Add the shrimp and saute until they turn pink.  Remove from the pan, keeping the heat on.  Add the soy sauce first to deglaze, then add in the remaining ingredients.  Cook this mixture down until it becomes thick and saucy.  Add in the shrimp and toss to coat.  Taste the sauce before serving, especially with the shrimp and adjust the seasoning or spice to your taste.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

For these tostadas, begin by toasting a flour tortilla in the oven until crisp.  I just used an asian sesame salad mix as my base.  Then I added shaved red cabbage and a sauce made from greek yogurt and sriracha.  I love this shrimp paired with the creaminess of fresh avocado, cilantro, and lime.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

The tacos are pretty similar to the tostadas, except I didn’t use the salad kit, just red cabbage, sriracha sauce, avocado, cilantro, lime and shrimp!  This shrimp would also be great on pasta or in a rice bowl.  Let me know how you enjoyed it in the comments below!

 

Breakfast Cookies

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Photography by Allyson Regan

I don’t know who invented breakfast cookies, but I’m so glad they did.  I mean, you just can’t get much better than eating cookies for breakfast!  Especially when they are jam packed with delicious and healthy ingredients like these ones.  Just because they are called breakfast cookies, doesn’t mean that you can’t eat these anytime during the day.  They make a great healthy dessert when packed in a lunch, or a great snack for a road trip because they are quite filling.  Like most of my recipes, feel free to add or remove some of the add-in ingredients, like the nuts or chocolate chips.

Breakfast Cookies

1 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 Tbsp vanilla

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup rolled oats, old fashioned

1/2 Tbsp baking soda

1 Tbsp ground flax seed

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup dates, chopped

1/4 cup applesauce

1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

1/4 Tbsp salt

1/2 Tbsp cinnamon

 

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add in the egg and applesauce and mix well.  Add in the remaining ingredients and mix to combine.  Scoop the dough into small balls, and chill before baking.  Bake at 325 degrees for about 12 minutes, rotating the tray after 6 minutes.  I like these cookies a little darker because they get a little more toasty flavor, so I normally cook them for about 14 minutes total.  Cool on a cooling rack, and package in a tupperware container.  These cookies tend to get quite soft after a couple days so you can either bake them throughout the week, or throw a piece of bread into the container to soak up the excess moisture.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

This recipe is sure to become a favorite in your house.  If you meal plan on Sundays, this recipe takes no time at all and can easily be added into your routine.  Like always, I’d love to hear from you!  Comment below if you try this or any other recipe on my blog.  Also, please share the love on social media using the buttons below!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Boneless Chicken Wings

 

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Photography by Allyson Regan

It’s almost the weekend and we all know what that means.  There’s so many sports games on and we can’t just watch them empty-handed!  I don’t know about you, but I love watching football with my husband.  And I love making game-day food.  A Michigan win would be good too.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

This recipe for boneless chicken wings is so incredibly easy, and it’s one of the most requested meals in our home.  Seriously, if you are entertaining for the game this weekend, you have to try this recipe.  What I love about this dish is that it uses boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, but you can easily switch it up and use chicken thighs, or just chunk up a whole chicken.  Even though bags of frozen chicken wings can be delicious and easy, I like to be able to have chicken wings made from good, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, delicious chicken that I normally buy.  Also, in those frozen convenience chicken products, they don’t use the best chicken.

 

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Boneless Chicken Wings

1 2.5 pound package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 eggs

4 cups of panko breadcrumbs

3 cups all purpose flour

salt and pepper

1 quart vegetable oil

Begin by pouring vegetable oil into a small saucepan.  You want to have 3-4 inches of oil, but you also need 2-3 inches of space from the top of the pan.  Heat to medium, maybe medium high depending on your stove.  Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes.  Gather three bowls and place flour in one, the eggs in another, and the panko breadcrumbs in the final bowl.  Season the flour.  Whisk the eggs well.  Dunk the chicken cube into the flour, then the egg, and then the panko.  Make sure to fully cover the previous layer at each step.

Gently place the breaded chicken into the heated oil, making sure to only add enough chicken so that they can float around.  Don’t crowd the oil, this will promote even browning.  You don’t have to worry about taking the temperature of the chicken at this point, because you will be frying the chicken in shifts and you will bake them after done frying.  I like to cook them this way so that they don’t get cold, and so that I make enough, these never last long!  When you remove the chicken from the oil, transfer to a sheet tray that has a cookie rack on top.  If you place the chicken right onto the pan, the bottom will get soggy.  Once you’re done frying all the chicken, bake for 15-20 minutes until hot and the internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Don’t these just make your mouth water??  And they are super easy, they just make a lot of dishes.  My husband loves these with buffalo sauce, barbecue and ranch, with plenty of celery and carrots!  If you’ve never made buffalo sauce before, it’s super simple.  Just equal parts hot sauce and butter.  The less butter you add, the spicier it will be.  Heat both ingredients over low heat until melted and combined.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Even if your team doesn’t win, your tummy will!! Be sure to make more than you think you’ll need.  You can also save the fried nuggets by freezing them in a single layer on a tray and then placing in a freezer bag.  Bake at 400 degrees to reheat for 25-30 minutes.

Go Blue!

 

 

Eggs Benedict-Brunch Style

It’s finally the weekend!!! Let’s celebrate what could possibly be one of the last summer-y Saturdays this year!  Well, I guess today is officially the beginning of Fall, but it still feels like summer.  Also, brunch.  Need I say more?

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Eggs Benedict is one of my husbands favorite things to eat during the weekends.  It is a bit of a labor of love, but I do love the end product!  Weekends are made for cooking because you have so much more time than during the weekdays.  And nothing pairs better with brunch food than bloody mary’s.  So if your hosting brunch this weekend or just want to enjoy your time away from the office, check out Mimosas: Otherwise It Would Just Be Juice or Bloody Mary Bar DIY to step up your weekend goals.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

The classic eggs benedict includes several key components.  You’ll need an english muffin, preferably with nooks and crannies, Canadian bacon (or some kind of protein), hollandaise, and a couple of perfectly poached egg.  You might need some practice with a couple of these components before you’ve mastered this breakfast classic.  There are some shortcuts, like using a fried egg instead of the finicky poached egg, using a hollandaise mix instead of homemade, or just going out to breakfast instead of making it yourself.  Now, I’ve eaten quite a bit of eggs benedict in my 24 years and once you make your own hollandaise, you can totally tell when a restaurant uses the pre-made mix.

Eggs Benedict

4 whole eggs

8 slices of ham, or Canadian bacon, or veggie sausage

2 english muffins

4 egg yolks

1 1/2 sticks of butter

1 lemon

Frank’s Hot sauce, or another hot sauce

salt and pepper

white vinegar

paprika (optional)

Begin by melting the butter over low heat taking care not to boil it.  Split your english muffins with a fork (this helps to preserve those nooks and the crannies).  Place your 4 egg yolks in a medium glass bowl.  You are going to place this bowl over a medium pot of simmering water so make sure that it’s a good fit.  Get your water for this on the stove and simmer over medium heat.  Place the ham slices in a skillet to warm and brown a bit.  You’ll also need a medium pot full of boiling water with a splash of white vinegar.  The vinegar helps to coagulate the egg white faster and not to get too technical (even though the science behind this is really cool!) it will help you to produce a perfect egg.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

You’ll want to start the hollandaise before poaching the egg.  Begin by whisking the egg yolks with a metal spoon.  Whisk until they start to lighten in color.  Place over the simmering water, whisking constantly.  Slowly add in the melted butter while continuing to whisk well.  Remove from heat anytime you feel like the eggs might be getting chunky but continue to whisk.  I normally go back and forth between the heat several times.  You’ll know it’s done when it becomes thick and pale yellow.  Remove from the heat and add in a squeeze of fresh lemon, several shakes of hot sauce, and salt and pepper.  When you taste it, it should be slightly lemony, very buttery, and you shouldn’t necessarily taste the hot sauce, it just helps to round out the flavor.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Toast your english muffins and begin to poach your eggs. To poach, crack your eggs one at a time into a small bowl.  Once you drop the egg into the water, swirl the water with a spoon to create a mini whirlpool.  This will help the whites to coagulate together, instead of spreading out in the pot.  You don’t have to poach eggs easy, the longer you simmer them, the longer the yolk will cook.

To assemble, place the toasted english muffins on your plate.  Place the warmed ham slices on them and then top with the poached egg.  Drizzle a healthy portion of hollandaise on top and sprinkle with paprika.  Because this is such a prep-heavy breakfast, I like to make sure the side is easy.  I normally go for oven baked home-fries or even hash-browns.  That way your kitchen won’t be so crowded.  Enjoy with a nice bloody mary!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

 

 

 

Chipotle & Butternut Squash Risotto

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Photography by Allyson Regan

It seems as though fall can’t quite make up it’s mind quite yet here in Michigan.  We had a delightfully chilly week last week, and this week is like the muggiest heat all summer!  But nevertheless, butternut squash persists, and has hit the grocery stores.  This is one of my all time favorite new recipes!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

If you know me well, you know that second only to pasta, risotto is one of my very favorite meals to make.  I fall in love with the process every single time.  The attention to detail, taking the time to toast the rice, the constant stirring, the careful eye watching for the perfect moment to serve, it’s glorious!  When I was about to turn 21, I was the most excited to be able to finally buy wine to make a proper risotto.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Chipotle & Butternut Squash Risotto

1 large butternut squash

1 small can of chipotle peppers, in adobo

olive oil

1 cup arborio rice

3 cups of stock, I prefer chicken

2 tbsp butter

1 small yellow onion, small diced

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/2 cup good white wine

Goat cheese, optional

salt and pepper

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.  Peel and cut the squash into a small dice.  Puree the chipotle peppers with the sauce in the can until smooth.  Toss the squash with 2 tbsp (less if you don’t like a lot of spice) and a drizzle of olive oil.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until soft.  Once cooled, puree 2/3 of the squash.

To start the risotto, begin by melting the butter in a heavy bottomed pot.  Slowly caramelize the onion and garlic, over medium low heat.  Raise the heat to medium, and add the rice, tossing it to cover well with the butter.  Cook until the rice begins to take on color and smell toasted.  Deglaze the pan with the white wine, taking care to scrap the delicious brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  This kicks off the stirring marathon.  Stir evenly, and once the wine has been absorbed, add in 1/3 cup of warmed stock.  Continue to repeat stirring and adding the stock.  The ratio of 1 cup of arborio rice to 3 cups of stock is tried and true in my kitchen, however, if you end up stirring unevenly or cooking on too high of a temperature, you may need more stock.  When you are about to add the last bit of stock, add in the squash puree from earlier.  Once the stock has been absorbed, add in the goat cheese.  If you are holding this warm for a bit, add in another 2 tbsp of butter which will help the risotto to keep from globbing together.  Yes, in addition to making risotto, we are also making up words.  Finally, taste and season to your liking.  Top each bowl with the roasted squash and more cheese.  Enjoy!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Just a note, you probably won’t use that whole can of chipotle peppers, but save them in your fridge.  I love to add this puree to my chili to deepen the flavor, or you can toss mushrooms with this puree, oil, and brown sugar and roast to create a very umami-esque taste.

 

Roasted Poblano and Corn Guacamole

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Let’s be honest with each other and get this out into the open.  Food is the perfect companion to football and beer.  Sundays like today are begging for a cold one and some delicious food.  Don’t get me wrong, I love watching football with my guy, cheering on our team.  But I love having lots of food options for us during the weekends when there’s so many different games to watch.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

This is just a dressed up version of guacamole, and it almost doesn’t even need a recipe!  But I’ll give you one as a reference.  Poblanos can be a bit tricky, much like jalapeños.  You can never be certain how spicy they be until you eat it.  This is why it’s so important to taste as you go.  I roasted my poblanos on our grill, because we have an induction range, but if you have a gas stove, you can roast them over the flames.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Roasted Poblano and Corn Guacamole

4 soft avocados

2-3 poblanos

2 limes

1 cup sweet corn

handful of fresh cilantro

salt & pepper

Roast the poblanos over an open flame.  Place into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap while cooling.  The plastic will trap the heat and help the skins to steam making it super easy to peel.  Roast the corn over the flame as well, or sauté in a pan over high heat if using frozen or canned corn.  Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits.  Scoop out avocado and mash with a fork.  Once the poblanos are cool, peel and remove the seeds.  Cut into a small dice and add to the mashed avocados.  Cut the corn off the cob and add to the avocado mixture.  Roughly chop cilantro (optional, I know it’s soapy to some).  Juice the limes starting with one.  Make sure to taste as you go along.  If this will be sitting out for a bit, make sure to add a bit more lime juice to keep the color.  As always, season well.  If you’d like, you can also add a pinch of coriander and cumin to bump up the flavor even more.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Because there’s lots of poblanos and corn, I didn’t add tomatoes to this guacamole like I usually do.  You could definitely still add tomatoes and blistered cherry tomatoes would taste so good with the roasted veggies.  I love the way blue corn tortilla chips look next to guacamole and they taste great too!

Go Lions!